Until Putin is no longer in power, Russia will continue to be plagued by apathy.

Investigative reporter Roman Anin warns that if you consistently show apathy, there may come a time when someone will come to your doorstep, forcefully take your husband away, and within three days, send him to [Ukraine] where he will face a fatal outcome. Anin emphasizes that this is the consequence individuals face when they show indifference towards their own destiny and the future of their nation.

The Moldova-born Russian is one of this year’s recipients of the Free Media Award from Germany’s Zeit Foundation. And this is only the latest in the string of accolades and awards for the 36-year-old, who is a member of multiple international investigative networks, including the team behind the Panama Papers investigation.

In Russia, Anin’s Important Stories (IStories.media) website first drew headlines in 2020 by looking into procurement of ventilation machines during the COVID pandemic. In the same year, they also published a report on one of the most sensitive topics in the country — apparent corruption linked to the family of Vladimir Putin. He was forced to leave Russia the following year.

Russian opposition activists fight on from exile

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In a conversation with DW in Hamburg, Anin expresses that his Russian audience remains interested in understanding corruption at a high level. However, he notes that overall, the Russian society shows little concern for this issue and has been heavily influenced by apathy.

Russia’s corruption and ‘colossal misery’

Anin himself shows no sign of apathy. He moved to Russia as a teenager, studied journalism in Moscow, and in 2006 started working as a sports reporter with the Novaya Gazeta, a paper known for seeing several of its reporters killed under the Putin regime. In 2008, Anin was sent by Novaya Gazeta to cover the brief war between Russia and Georgia, when he joined the outlet’s investigative unit.

He held a position that gave him the opportunity to work on significant stories, such as tax fraud exposed by Sergei Magnitsky and corruption related to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Additionally, he conducted investigations into individuals within the upper echelons of the Putin regime, including Sergey Roldugin, a close friend of Putin and a billionaire cellist, as well as Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft. In 2016, Anin published an article revealing that Sechin’s wife owned a yacht valued at $100 million (€94 million). Sechin filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and emerged victorious.

Anin acknowledges that comprehending the extent of corruption within the Russian elite is challenging for many individuals.

“I cannot reword”

This disconnect is “nothing to marvel at — even the war was only a concern for a few people until the mobilization started and they started detaining husbands and brothers, sending them to the front with no training, where they simply got killed,” he added.

Russia’s commencement with peace in Ukraine

According to the reporter, putting an end to the Ukraine conflict would merely mark the initial phase of awakening Russian society. He suggests that it would require many years of engaging with the people to bring about reform in the country. This transformation would only occur following the demise of Putin and the group of individuals closely associated with the longstanding Russian leader, often referred to as the “collective Putin.”

Anin states that breaking the apathy under the Putin regime is extremely challenging. He emphasizes the importance of revealing the complete truth about the war to the public, as it would help people understand the horrifying events that occurred over the past 30 years, which they silently witnessed. These atrocities were carried out with the people’s unquestionable support. Anin believes that by acknowledging these horrors, Russia might have a chance to overcome apathy and embrace a new way of life.

In 2021, Anin was arrested by Russian authorities and his residence in Moscow was searched, resulting in the confiscation of many of his belongings. The reason given for his detention was his potential involvement as a witness in a privacy invasion case. His colleagues at Novaya Gazeta believe that this was a delayed retaliation for his 2016 Sechin story. Both Anin and his media outlet, Important Stories, have been classified as “foreign agents.” Anin is currently continuing his investigative work outside of Russia. Despite being officially deemed “undesirable” under Russian law, Important Stories remains active and resilient. This designation means that it is illegal to share or engage with their content online.

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I apologize, but we are deserving of it.

According to Anin, he can still connect with his audience in Russia, evident from the high number of YouTube views. Even if all communication channels are eventually blocked, Anin believes it would not be the most significant tragedy compared to others happening today.

Anin states that our objective is to inform individuals about the true events, the actual nature of the government, and the real situation in Ukraine. We aim to expose the criminality of this war and shed light on how the Russian authorities disregard the lives of their own people, callously sending them to their deaths in vast numbers.

“The fate of the individuals lies in their own hands. If the people residing in Russia are unwilling to embrace change or seek the truth, there is little we can do to alter their circumstances.”

Anin remarks on the perception of Russians by Ukrainians and people from other countries during the war, stating that he has never encountered any mistrust from his Ukrainian colleagues. However, he adds that he would not take offense if he did.

“I cannot reword”

I am unable to reword